Exactly four years ago my shift at the Saudi hospital had started out like any other night. The allocated patients kept me busy and life seemed to be rolling on as usual. Little did I know that night would change my life for good.
I was thankful to have my friend "Katherine" working on the same shift, it was always a relief having another westerner and English speaking person to talk to during the night shift. We had again agreed to exchange our patients over to each other to enable a break in the middle of the shift.
The moment that would change my life happened very randomly. I was looking for Katherine to ask her which coffee she wanted from Starbuck's. It was my turn to fetch that night's caffeine dose and I was on my way down to the coffee shop. I saw her nurse presence light on in one room and decided to pop my head in quickly.
As I peaked in, Katherine was chatting inside with the patient and his relative. The Euro Cup football match was playing loudly on TV. She excitedly motioned me to enter the room further so curiously I did, at the same time asking what her Starbucks order was going to be.
As I glanced at the patient sitting there on his bed, something strange happened. As if time had stopped, like a missing piece had fallen into its place. A handsome young man looked back at me, equally baffled by the moment. For just a few seconds our eyes met and then both of us shyly looked away. I greeted the men with salaams and smiled. They replied back politely, not even looking at me for long but eyeing the floor or the TV. I had learned by now this was a sign of respect, not disrespect as my own culture would tell me. They did not want to make me feel awkward.
I felt a rush of blood going to my head, I was blushing now. Oh how I hated when that happened! I wanted to leave, but then I felt a certain curiosity of this man who I thought was probably one of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes on. He had a certain sparkle in his eyes that intrigued me and his smile seemed to light up the room. I didn't want to leave anymore.
I lingered for a moment, asking about the game on TV. The truth is I knew nothing about football, the only thing I cared about was the Italian football team, for other reasons than their skills. He made a joke about the Italians and we all laughed. I told him I was rooting for Italy and more jokes were thrown around. Secretly I was thinking to myself how the patient actually reminded me of an Italian football player with his long black hair brushed up in a ponytail and his smiling dark chocolate eyes.
When I couldn't think of any more excuses to stay in the room I left to fetch the coffee. I kept thinking about the patient and wanted to ask Katherine about him. I felt drawn to go talk to him more. Later that night my chance came when Katherine and I swapped patients for her break.
Katherine had informed her patients she was leaving for an hour and meanwhile nurse "Layla from Finland" would be taking over. As she was leaving she teased me, "he will call you for sure, something tells me he wants to see you again. When you walked into the room it was like something made a "click" sound! I swear I could hear it!"
About five minutes after she left, the call bell rang. Room 42. It's him! I was nervous to enter and felt my heart racing. The young man asked if he could get a pain killer. Sure, I said and left to check his files. When I returned he thanked me for the medicine and shyly asked a few questions about me.
I was amazed how it felt so easy to talk to him, his English was perfect and I forgot he was even Saudi. It was as if we already knew each other somehow. It became apparent that we had actually lived in the same area in the U.S as kids. What a coincidence! We talked about Finland and at some point I mentioned how we have so many moose there but I couldn't remember how to say the plural. What was it, perhaps mooses? He laughed and told me it must be meese! To this day I remember that silly joke and how it made us both laugh so hard. His smile filled my heart with joy.
Never in a million years did I think something like this would happen to me when I landed on Saudi soil. When I left Finland for Saudi people used to taunt me, you will find a Saudi Prince there, fall in love and stay forever! I told them, in your dreams only! I guess sometimes fairy tales do come true.